We need to talk about...Fatphobia in The Haitian Community
For my Haitian folx, have you ever walked into a family gathering and the first thing your Tatie or Tonton says to you is “Listen cheri, you need to lose weight” while disguising their disgust with “I only say this because I care for you”? How about when you go up for that second plate and you can feel their eyes piercing your body, watching how much griot you will take? The reality is, you don’t need to lose weight and whoever is staring at you is probably projecting their fear of weight gain onto you. Far too many times I’ve witnessed and have been apart of situations where someone is spewing something anti-fat or just blatantly being fatphobic. Which results in the victim having a negative relationship with their body, self-love/self-esteem, and overall mental/emotional health. Now, this doesn’t only happen in Haitian households because fat-shaming happens everywhere but this is an issue that needs to be discussed between Haitian people because it is so prevalent in our communities. Let’s dive in and talk about why situations like this occur.
Firstly, we have to go back and discover the beginnings of fatphobia which is described as, “the fear and/or hatred of fat bodies [that] perpetuates negative stereotypes that extend discrimination against the majority of bodies within the United States” (Amouzadeh). We live in a world that has white supremacy ingrained into the foundations of so many institutions as well as societies due to colonization. Furthermore, your proximity to whiteness determines how you are read and treated by others as well as the opportunities given to you socially, economically and politically. Thinness is directly aligned with white supremacy so this is not to say that the thinner you are, the more white you are. Instead, the closer you are to being thin, then the closer you are to being socially accepted. So, just how racism is used to oppress non-white peoples on institutional levels, fatphobia/ fat-hate oppresses fat folks. One of my favorite intellectuals that I follow on twitter, Da’Shaun Harrison, talks a lot about fat politics, fat-hate, and how being fat intersects with being black as well as being LGBTQIA+. In one of their pieces, Da’Shaun mentions that “In 49 out of the 50 US states, it is legal to fire someone for no other reason than their fatness. In other words, unless a fat person is fired for being fat in Michigan—the only state with a law which protects people who are overweight—they can be fired and nothing can be done about it” (Harrison). Consider that this is just one way out of the many that displays the discrimination that fat people face on a daily basis.
It’s time that fat-hate comes to an end in all spaces, communities, workplaces, etc. It’s been far too many times that my Haitian elders have commented on the size of my body or thrown microaggressions at me because I have gained weight. We have got to stop stigmatizing weight gain and praising weight loss because it all leads back to rejecting fatness and being fatphobic. If we are all about bringing white supremacy to an end, this is one of the constructs that we need to start unlearning and unpacking. Start telling the people around you to stop using words like “fat” in a demeaning and insulting way. Defend those who are victims of fat-hate and uplift them by highlighting their body is beautiful just the way it is. There are so many small steps we can take towards eradicating fatphobia at LEAST within our own households, places of work, etc.
What will you do in your everyday life to denounce fatphobia?
Written by Stephanie Voyard